Free Ways to Promote Your Business Online

How to Promote Your Business Effectively Without Paying a Dime

free online advertising
••• Getty Images/Weedezign 

If you're a business owner, there are a number of ways to get the word out about your products or services to people who want to buy them without spending a lot of money—or any at all.

Free online advertising techniques can come in handy when you’re in the startup phase and don’t have much, if any, money to spend on marketing. They're also great for testing new ideas since you may not want to risk your money on something unproven.

These methods can help you generate leads, build your email list, get direct sales, contact previous customers to get them to buy again, and more on various digital channels. But although they can be effective, but it's important to consider both the pros and cons before deciding if free online advertising methods are a good fit for your business.

Pros

  • A cost-effective way to connect with potential clients

  • Great for testing new business ideas

Cons

  • Can be very time-consuming

  • Risk of low return on investment (time and effort)

Now that you know some of the pros and cons, let's take a look at some of the top free methods to promote your business online.

Facebook Marketing

The great thing is that you can do it for free. You can join Facebook and even start a business page on Facebook for at no cost so you can interact with your customers. It’s the ultimate free online advertising method.

Some best practices:

  • Post regularly
  • Offer useful information
  • Ask questions
  • Include special offers, sales, and discounts 
  • Include links back to your website and/or ecommerce store
  • Post photos and videos that grab attention
  • Use advanced features such as tracking pixels and retargeting

One of the most important practices is to engage with your audience. If one of your followers asks a question or comments on a post, be sure to reply right away.

After you've gotten some good results with free Facebook marketing methods you'll want to expand into paid advertising opportunities as well.

YouTube Marketing

With YouTube you can join and post videos related to your business for free. Best practices here are to offer useful advice and information, or offer a strong point of view. It could be a how-to video related to your niche or a video of your product in action, for example.

Always fill out the description with details about your business, as well as a link back to your website (be sure to include "http://" so that your link is clickable). Include that in the video too—in fact, add a call to action at the end of your video encouraging people to visit your website for more information.

If you're creating videos and uploading them to YouTube you should upload them directly to Facebook as well. While you're at it, add the video to your blog, too.

LinkedIn Marketing

If your product or service would help business owners or companies—a business-to-business (B2B) type of product—you should also be active on LinkedIn. Here, you can network with potential customers and post links to articles and other resources. It’s a great way to get the word out about your business. Again, it’s free online advertising.

They key to really leveraging LinkedIn is to make personal connections and develop real relationships with people that can potentially turn into business leads, sales, or referrals. If you're a great networker offline then LinkedIn will magnify your networking abilities by a huge factor.

Forum and Facebook Group Marketing

Although Facebook has stolen a bit of the thunder of forums, forum marketing is still a great way to interact with prospect and customers. A forum is an online discussion group about a specific niche or industry.

The idea here is that you join the forum and read through past posts. Get an idea of what people are talking about and the issues that are concerning them. You can start posting your take on the issue, offer advice and useful information, and in general be an active participant.

The next step is delicate. You don’t want to just start posting links and ads to your website and products. The forum folks will consider it spam and might even ban you. Instead, include a link to your website in your profile and signature. You could even make casual links and mentions to in some of your posts to your product or your website. But don’t be “salesy” or “pushy” no matter what you do.

Getting listed on popular social sites like Reddit could also be a great way to drive traffic to your website and turn some free online advertising into real sales. Reddit has very specific categories, or sub-Reddits, dealing with just about any interest or niche you can think. Again, join the discussion and link to your product once you’ve been around awhile and people know you.

All of the above advice can be applied to Facebook Groups, which is a great free marketing method as well.

Blog Marketing

Another great way to engage in free online advertising is to start a blog. You can include text content, photos, and videos about important topics in your niche. Offer useful advice and information, like how-to tips, news about your industry, and more. The important thing with a blog is to post regularly, several times a week is the best-case scenario (if you're really limited in time or don't like writing then try to commit to an at least once weekly schedule or outsource your content).

You’ll grow your blog audience by posting your blog on social media, mentioning it in forums, and, once you’ve been at it awhile, you’ll get free traffic through search engine optimization as your site sits higher in the Google rankings.

The blog will help people get to know you and your business (and its products and/or services). You’ll become a trusted authority in your niche. And that, eventually, will turn your blog visitors into paying customers.

Once you have a bit of experience and a track record, you can also offer to do guest blog posts on other people’s blogs. The blog should be in a related niche, since you want to make sure the audience is interested in what you have to say. Again, you can include a link to your own blog or website. Of course, you will have to reciprocate by letting others do guest posts on your blog.

A final note on blogging: Any time you post new content be sure to use all the methods above to promote your new content.

Podcast Marketing

Podcasts are a very popular way for entrepreneurs to get exposure and free online advertising. You can even make money with a podcast. You can start your own podcast and/or appear on the podcasts of others. It could be as simple as you talking into a microphone with your thoughts on your niche. You could offer advice, answer questions that come in via email—the sky is the limit. If you appear on somebody else’s podcast you could do an interview. In either case, always make sure to tell listeners how to find you online so they can check out your website.

Make your podcast available for download on your blog and/or website, as well as on the major podcast services like Apple’s iTunes. Your podcast should, of course, be a free download.

Check out these top podcasts that entrepreneurs listen to if you want to see examples of how it's done.

Article Marketing

Content marketing is another great channel for free online advertising. You can submit articles for posting consideration to websites like Entepreneur.com, Medium.com, and more. In order to be accepted, the article should be well-written, useful, and about a topic in your niche.

Once you get on the radar of their editors, you can be published multiple times. In this way, you can get your name out there and build your authority as an expert in your niche—snd you can include a link back to your site.

One thing to keep in mind is that you don't necessarily have to be published on a major media website to have success. You can and should target smaller niched publications, websites, and blogs that reach your target audience. The audience will be smaller but can be much more responsive.

Once you've started to drive traffic and generate sales online you'll seriously want to consider expanding into paid advertising opportunities to reach even a larger audience more quickly.